Sunday, July 27, 2014

What We're Writing Week: Susan Elia MacNeal on Maggie Hope's continuing adventures

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: As many of you know, THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT came out at the beginning of this month! (Number 10 on the New York Times bestseller list, woo hoo!) 

Also, Miss Edna is now out of the hospital. She's resting comfortably at home and thanks you all for your good wishes. One of the things she wants to learn to do during her recovery is learn to use the computer, so with luck, she'll be able to interact in person!

And I've been busy doing book events in Pittsburgh, Houston, and New York. And going to Philadelphia, Ann Arbor for more book tour fun. And maybe Charlotte, for research.


For the most part, I'm pretty good at writing while traveling. First, beyond keeping up with the schedule, your down time is your own. (As opposed to at home: "Mommy, can you get me the (fill in the blank)?" "Miss Susan, when you have a moment...." and "Uh, honey....") 

I work happily on planes, trains and autos (just need an electrical outlet) and I loooooove to work in hotel rooms. (The silence — oh, the blessed silence!)

And so, even though I've been on the road, talking about THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT (Maggie Hope #4), I've also been writing MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE (Maggie Hope #5).

Since the new book is just out and I don't want to give away any spoilers by quoting from the next one, I'm going to talk a little about the characters we'll see in MRS. ROOSEVELT'S CONFIDANTE.

The book opens with our old friends from MR. CHURCHILL'S SECRETARY —  Maggie Hope, David Greene, John Stirling, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill — now reunited in Washington D.C. just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Having Maggie return back to the U.S. has been great fun to write, as has been having the Brits be the "fish out of water" characters for a change.

Of course they meet President Roosevelt and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.

And OF COURSE they meet Fala, the President's dog.

Maggie will go on to meet a character inspired by Pauli Murray. She's pressuring Eleanor Roosevelt to use her influence on staying the execution of a black man, inspired by Odell Waller. Needless to say, this doesn't go over well with certain Southerners who have secret ties with the KKK — and when bodies start piling up, Maggie and Mrs. Roosevelt investigate....


Meanwhile, there's a subplot where Walt Disney makes more than a cameo (he and the Disney Studio were heavily involved in war work for the U.S. government — not just propaganda films, but also animated instructional films for the armed forces, designing icons, logos, etc.) Disney's seen here with RAF pilot turned British spy, turned children's novelist Roald Dahl (CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, et al.)

We'll also see how Maggie's half-sister, Elise Hess, does as she's granted a temporary leave from the Ravensbrück concentration camp and returns to see her father in Berlin.

And we'll continue to follow the story of Clara Hess. (That's all I'm going to say — anything else would give some big surprises away.)

I'm so excited about this book — Maggie's first line is "I'm back!" — and so she is. 

Literally, back in the U.S. for the first time since 1937.

But she's also figuratively back — in that she's recovered (more or less) from her battle with the Black Dog of depression. Not only is she back to the Maggie we know from past books, but she's ready to start her next adventure — this time, in America.

Wonder Woman made her debut in December of 1941, 
the same month Maggie returns to the U.S.


  1. So glad to hear that Miss Edna is home again . . . sending speedy recovery thoughts to her.

    Now I'm really going to have a hard time waiting for the next Maggie Hope adventure --- it sounds quite intriguing . . . and exciting. [Love the Wonder Woman pictures!]

  2. I'm a huge DisNerd (as in giant), so I'm thrilled to hear he is part of the new book. Yes, I already knew about his involvement in World War II, but I'll be interested to see your take on it.

    And glad to hear Miss Edna is doing better.

  3. Your books—such great stories interwoven with the historic events of are day—are so well done we have the illusion that we are reading about these icons of the past for the first time.

  4. You're one busy woman Susan! Isn't the weirdest feeling to be deep into writing the next book while promoting the new one? It makes for a very full brain:)

  5. This sounds SO GREAT! Really fantastic. I used to play at the home of a friend who lived near Disney and he really did have a choo choo train in his back yard.

    I will take a page from you on my next trip and truly attempt to work on the road. I'm terrible at it.

  6. A big "Welcome Home" to Miss Edna!

    Yay - this sounds terrific!!! Now, I have to say - what could be more interesting than eavesdropping on Maggie and Mrs. Roosevelt?!

  7. Thank you, all. Hallie, I'm not always great at it — in fact, my trip to Houston was punctuated with not a few episodes of THE WIRE -- thanks, Hank (Miss Scarlett), for getting me addicted to that....

  8. P.S. Mark, you know my husband played Bear on Bear in the Big Blue House, right?

  9. Rare Sunday check in. Glad to hear Miss Edna is doing well.

    The next book sounds fantastic. Good luck (and congrats on the NYT list). So bummed I couldn't get to see you when you were Pittsburgh.

  10. Glad to hear about Miss Edna's return home. Here's to continued improvement.

    Will Churchill have flashbacks about his NYC visit in 1931, when he looked the wrong way exiting a taxi and was hit by a car, nearly being killed in the process? My husband talks about this all the time, so I looked it up. It really did happen.

    I love all the different aspects of this installment of Maggie's life, Susan. Really looking forward to reading it!

  11. Susan, the books sound great! And so much fun to write, I'll bet. Can't wait to see Maggie back in the USA--although I hope she'll be back in Britain for the next one:-)

    It is really weird to be promoting one book while writing another one. Makes you feel more than a little displaced...

    Oh, I LOVE writing in hotel rooms, too. Bliss!

    Best wishes to Miss Edna.

  12. Best wishes for Miss Edna's speedy recovery. Our aunts and moms and moms-in-law are precious.

    I just started reading your series. Sorry now it took so long to get to the top of myTBR list - I am loving it. Can't wait to catch up.

  13. I am ready to read the latest! I hope your tag team appearance at Murder by the Book was fun. I wanted to go so much but couldn't. I'm glad Miz Edna is home and good luck to her computer ambitions.

  14. I'm really looking forward to the new Maggie Hope book. She's such a fun heroine. And thank you for mentioning Walt Disney's war-related work. I'm sorry to say that my high school's idea of sex education included a Disney animated film on STDs that had clearly been made as an instructional film for troops during WWII. It was a little surreal in the 1970s to say the least, and most of my friends think I'm joking when I try to explain it to them.

  15. Susan, I had no idea! I must admit I haven't watched Bear in the Big Blue House since it was after my time, but still, that is so cool!

    And I also had no clue that Dahl had been a spy for England. That's cool as well.

  16. Susan, it's great news that your Miss Edna is back home and looking forward to learning something new. Go Miss Edna!

    I've had some other reading that was pressing, so I'm hoping to get to the Maggie Hope series in August or September. I know I'm going to love the books. Your next one to come out sounds so fascinating with Churchill, the Roosevelts, and Walt Disney. And, the Odell Waller connection is a part I'm looking forward to, too.

    I did know that Roald Dahl was a spy. I have a book about him (non-fiction) entitled The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Washington by Jennet Conant. I've only read bits and parts, but it's still on my TBR to read the whole book one of these days.

    Another writer/animator that did his part in the propaganda press for the United States was Dr.Seuss, of which I'm sure most of you are aware. I went to an exhibit at the Library of Congress about his WWII cartoons, editorial and other, and I bought the book featuring 200 of them, Dr. Seuss Goes to War.

    I vaguely was aware of Walt Disney doing something, but now I want to look up more about his WWII work. Thanks, Susan

  17. I love this so much, I cannot begin to tell you. HURRAY! You are incredible! And I am just back from a few days with no sorry to be so absent. But I adore your books, you know that, beyond all description.]
    But let me tell you this--I DREAMED about Winston Churchill last night .ANd it is all because of you!

  18. I keep wanting to "like" everybody's comments today.

  19. Welcome home to Miss Edna! And the new book sounds wonderful and fascinating. Glad to hear Maggie is out of the doldrums and back on her game.

  20. Happy to hear Miss Edna is recovering. Wonder Woman is my favorite cartoon character.

    When Maggie Hope visits DC, will she visit the Lincoln Memorial? The sculptor who created the statue of Lincoln sitting on his chair is the same sculptor who created the statue at the only university for the deaf in DC.

    Notice the "A" handshape and the casual "L" handshape.

    Abe Lincoln's fingers are shaped in the "A" handshape on one hand and casually shaped in the "L" handshape on the other hand.


  21. Cannot wait for #5. Love the Maggie Hope series. Obviously you do your homework. As a history nut, especially World War II history, I really appreciate your books as 1) a great read, and 2) I always learn something. Thank you!!!!

  22. Cannot wait for #5. Love the Maggie Hope series. Obviously you do your homework. As a history nut, especially World War II history, I really appreciate your books as 1) a great read, and 2) I always learn something. Thank you!!!!

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